Antonio Tadrissi is definitely not sleeping on the contemporary design scene. In fact, we’re not so sure he’s sleeping at all. Between owning architectural firm Prototype Design Lab, fashion label Dust of Gods — oh, and curing all of our hangovers with his magic pill, Over EZ — we’re wondering if he ever has time to kick his feet up in that gorgeous Mississauga residence of his.
From building Drake’s (former) Toronto and Miami condos to opening one of Toronto’s biggest spas (Hammam Spa, run by Celine Tadrissi), Antonio’s firm is slowly taking over the world with its modern approach to design and fabrications. The man is breaking the mould on traditional architecture with his flare for edgy designs. (I think it’s safe to say Antonio was the first ever to create a chair completely out of stuffed toys, or a bookcase in the shape of a map.) Thanks to his funky and innovative approach, Antonio’s projects are, unsurprisingly, expanding internationally — you can see his mastery in several nightclubs across the globe, from Everleigh in Toronto to Scandal in London to Toy Room in Dubai. In other words, Tadrissi probably won’t be catching up on sleep any time soon.
What’s Prototype Design Lab’s story?
I started PD Lab in 2004. It’s kind of a unique architectural design firm. When I came out of school, I was stuck with the problem of trying to find a solution for a project that I was working on. That forced me into a natural progression of developing PD Lab, which is kind of a one-stop shop for bespoke design, all the way to fabrication, manufacturing, and instillation. All our projects are generally our design. Almost 90 per cent of our clients are global, because we have an ability to take a project from beginning and run it all the way to the end.
How do you get in the mindset for a new project?
Before I did architecture, I did molecular biology and biomedical engineering, so a lot of my background or thinking is scientific. I think, subliminally, I include that into my practice. Having said that, if you’ve ever worked with scientists or on a science project, you start your project with gathering ideas. You set up the hypothesis. I always look for areas that other people don’t look; my research consists of looking at other related things in different genres. I look at art, I look at fashion, I look at things outside of architecture alone. And then I will generate an idea board, which almost serves as a visual communication, a schematic design with our client. If you ask me to design something for you, after the first conversation with you we’d gather a series of ideas and precedents. And then, create a board and send it to you, and with that I’m able to get a little bit more in tune with you. In 14, 15 years of practice I’ve maybe lost one or two jobs ever.
What are the different architectural elements that make your designs unique?
Toy Room [the nightclub] is a good result of not only fashion, but art. It’s understanding the social model of society — everyone wants to take pictures and post it. So we really created Toy Room as a generator or catalyst for that. For example, we created one piece of art that says, ‘I lost my teddy, will you sleep with me?’ or something like that. That has become a phenomenon; thousands and thousands of pictures have been posted with that, and it’s a simple idea. There are times I have clients with billions of dollars and I have the freedom to do whatever I want to do, and there are times I have a very limited budget, very limited time, and we need to be creative. I believe you can give a million dollars to anybody and they can come up with some nice stuff, but if you give somebody half of that and they have to come up with amazing stuff, then you force them to think. Toy Room is a good example of this concept. Because the mandate was global locations.
Toy Room is located in different cities?
Toy Room London is the original flagship. And then it has franchised in a lot of different cities. They have them in Dubai, Istanbul, Rome, Milan, San Paulo, and now India. And currently I’m developing a new concept for them called Toy Box. Toy Box is a similar approach but it is for more of the ‘B cities’ — so we’re doing the first one in Manchester, which is more of a pub city as opposed to your ‘A cities,’ like New York, LA and London, where you have more international players that spend a lot of money. So this is more for the bigger crowd, more kind of the pub life. So if there will be one to open in Toronto, it would be a Toy Box.
How did your other businesses stem from Prototype Design Lab?
I’ve never worked for anybody. Since I was 16-years-old I’ve always done my own stuff. I think that the common language in all my businesses is that my interest falls into problem solving. I tell this to my kids all the time — I have three daughters and I tell them, “We wake up every day. As humans, our job is to solve.” Think about it: buying food, getting dressed, everything we do is actually a problem that we have to solve. So, to me, as you walk through life, you see things that have hidden potential. So that’s what all my businesses have in common.
The brand that I started, Dust of Gods, for example, it was first a part of when I was designing Toy Room. It was very merchandise-happy. People liked the brand, people were buying the hats, the t-shirts. So I did a boutique inside the club for them. As part of that, I did some jackets for them. The first jacket I made, when I was in the airport going to London I had a ton of people stop me and ask, “Where did that come from?” And getting the feedback from what I had developed caused me to think of starting Dust of Gods.
What are three words to describe Prototype Design Lab’s style?
It’s funny you say that, because I’m in the process of rebranding. I’m trying to put all my businesses into one single brand and I just did three words because it’s going to be on the crest or banner that I’m designing. And the three words that I came up with are: history, knowledge, and perseverance.
Just to satisfy my own curiosity, I need to ask: what was it like working with Drake?
It was fantastic. At the time I worked with him, he had just become who he is. I had known about him — we bought our cars from the same guy — but I wasn’t in that industry. I was coming back from New York and I had just bought the first GQ that he was on the cover of. And they asked him to say 40 things that he doesn’t have that he wants to have. One of the 40 things was he did not have any patio furniture. So I’m like, Damn! You know, I make furniture, he’s from Toronto, he’s big. I’m gonna find a way to actually do this for him. So I contacted the guy I knew that did cars and funny enough, Drake was actually at his office! So my friend handed the phone right to him and we chatted a little bit. I went to his place; he’s a super nice guy and we just clicked. For a couple years I worked with him. I designed his place here, did his place in Miami, and did some stuff for him in LA.